Personalized "Geeky" Lampshade From Cardboard

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About: Hi! I'm Cassey. I'm a full time student, with an undergraduate degree in biology and am working toward a dual PhD in "Genetics" and "Biochemistry and Molecular Biology." It's a lot of &qu...

My husband and I are both pretty geeky. Okay, we're SUPER geeky! Our home is registered with the USPS as "Serenity Ranch" on top of "Serenity Mountain." (For those of you who aren't SUPER geeks, Serenity Valley is the location of a battle from the Sci-Fi series "Firefly," and later the movie "Serenity.") We love Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, you get my point....

We also had several [HIDEOUS] old lamps in our house, and no one remembers where or when we got them. Does EVERYONE have lamps like that??? Were they here when we moved in???

Instead of throwing them away, I decided to "upcycle them." To go with our geeky ranch theme, I wanted one to be "Firefly" and one to be "Lord of the Rings." I found the "Starry Night" Lampshade technique on Google, and thought LOTR and Firefly would look AWESOME with those pinprick lights shinning through! The first lampshade I made using a black posterboard, as directed by the tutorial I found, but there were some things I didn't like about it. So, in honor of "The Cardboard Challenge," I decided to "up" the level of "upcycle" and make the next lampshades out of old cardboard boxes! We go through a lot of pizza and pizza related foods, so I used those boxes, but cereal boxes will work as well (better, because they're bigger).

I hope you enjoy this fun, personalized spin on this lampshade design!

Step 1: Materials

Materials: Necessary

  • Lampshade
  • Push pin, bobby pin, or needle
  • Foam sheet or thicker cardboard
    • I used a piece of closed cell foam from a yoga/camping mat
  • Scissors and/or X-Acto knife
  • Ruler
  • Thin cardboard
    • Cereal boxes, other food boxes (yes, we have a thing for pizza here!)
  • Plain printer paper
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks OR strong tape
  • Scotch Tape

Materials: Optional

  • Computer and printer
  • Paint and brush
  • Colored paper
  • Tin foil
  • ModPodge (regular glue works just as well)
  • Ribbon
  • Other “decorative materials” of your choice

If you don't have a lampshade at your house already, most thrift/resale stores have them CHEAP! I had several, but I got several of the ones shown in the picture at a thrift store for $3.99 each. I also found the ribbon at a thrift store!

Most of the materials can be substituted as you completely personalize this lampshade and its design.

Step 2: Disassemble the Old Lampshade

Peal off the trim from the old lampshade to expose the metal lamp rings. Then cut a straight slit down one side of the cloth lampshade, and peal/roll it away from the lamp rings.

In most cases, the glue is old and flakes or crumbles away. It's okay if the lampshade doesn't come off perfectly (mine was flaking plastic all over the place), but you'll need to be able to trace around the general outline of it.

Set the lamp rings aside, we'll come back to those in Step 13.

Step 3: Section and Measure the Old Lampshade

Determine how many sections you want your lampshade to have. Some are already sectioned (see Step 21), but for a plain circular lampshade like this, I'd recommend 3 sections. A smaller number of sections is also nicer when you're making your design, as more sections = more time spent poking holes.

I divided my lampshade into three sections by folding it in thirds and creasing the folds, then unfolding it. I could clearly see where I had creased the plastic. The sections aren't perfectly even, but they're close enough for this project!

Then, you need to measure how much space you have one each section, to know how large your design should be to fill the space. Measure and mark one inch from the top, bottom and each side. This inch margin will not be part of the pattern, it will be covered with "decoration" later. Measure the space in between the margins, both length and width. I ended up with about 6"x6" to work with. Record your measurements somewhere, we'll come back to them in Step 7. Not all sections will be square, and that's okay! The smallest length is the limiting factor on your design, but if your space is 4" wide and 8" tall, you can choose a design like a tower or a standing person that is much taller than it is wide.

Step 4: Transfer the Old Lampshade Onto Cardboard

Cut the old lampshade into the sections you made in Step 3 by cutting along the creases. Again, it doesn't have to be perfect but it should be neat enough that you can make an outline of it.

Transfer each section to your cardboard, tracing the top and bottom edges and using a ruler to trace the sides, so each new section fits perfectly to the next section.

***PRO-TIP: Take your ruler out about 1/4 inch from each of the sides of the section you're tracing to make the edge. As the lamp sections will overlap slightly when we put them all back together, if you don't do this, you'll end up with a gap where the new lampshade doesn't fit all the way around the rings. The gap is easily fixable, but if you want to avoid it, add some excess cardboard to the edges while you're tracing your lampshade section to cardboard.***

Cut out each traced section from the cardboard. The cardboard sections should line up with each other and look like the old lampshade.

At this point, you can discard the old lampshade. Hang on to those old lamp rings, though!

Step 5: Add Decoration to the Cardboard (Optional)

This is a step where you can do exactly what I did, or do something completely different, depending on what supplies you have on hand. You don't have to add anything to the cardboard, but I'd recommend making on side of each section "dark." Black seems to work best, but a dark navy blue would also work. The dark color faces out on the finished lampshade, magnifying the effect of the pinprick lights shining through.

Add some type of paper (I used tinfoil because "it's SHINY"... Sorry, another Firefly reference) to the waxy side of the cardboard by generously covering that side in ModPodge or normal glue, flipping the cardboard over and pressing it into your paper, then setting a heavy book on it while it dries. It's important to completely cover the cardboard with glue, or the paper will bubble and tear, or obscure your finished design. Also, if you have seams/folds in the cardboard, make sure to press the paper down around it with your fingers, or it may bubble.

Once the glue is dry, you can cut off the excess paper, or leave it on until after Step 6.

You can paint this side of the cardboard instead of gluing on paper, but it takes more coats of paint to fully obscure the writing on the cardboard, so I used paper/tinfoil instead and was very happy with the result.

Step 6: Add Decoration to the Cardboard (Optional)

If you like the paper method (Step 5) you can glue paper on again here. I had this black paint that I thought would be perfect for this project, so it's what I used. Any acrylic paint would work as well!

Paint the other side (the brown, cardboardy looking side) of the cardboard; I used black paint I already had on hand. Remember, you want at least one "dark side," so if you used tinfoil or another lighter color paper in Step 5, make sure you use a dark medium this time! Coat the cardboard evenly, and make sure the cardboard isn't showing through in any spots (mine took 2 coats, and then touching up a few spots).

Let the paint dry. The cardboard will likely curl while drying, which is okay. It will uncurl on its own over time, and through the hole punching process. I wouldn't recommend trying to flatten it out, as you may crease the cardboard.

After the paint is dry, cut off the excess paper from Step 5 if you have not already done so.

Step 7: Creating Your Personal, Geeky Design

While the paint is drying, plan/create your designs! Keeping in mind the dimensions of each section, Google Image Search for your theme. You're looking for relatively simple images, so searching "your theme silhouette", "your theme outline", "your theme character silhouettes", "your theme quotes," etc., is pretty effective. You can repeat the same design in each section, or use all different designs (in which case you need three pictures).

Find the image(s) you like, right click on it, click "copy", open a Microsoft Word Document, right click in the document and select "Paste."

Format your picture(s) as shown in the Instructable images if you want to. Keep in mind the size restraints you recorded in Step 3 while making your pictures larger or smaller within the Word document, and use the rulers on the sides and top of the page to ensure your pictures aren't too large. You see the exact size of the pictures by left clicking the picture, selecting the "format" tab from the top bar, and looking at the "size box" on the far left of the bar. These are the dimensions in inches the picture will be when printed.

When you're happy with your design(s), print it out! :)

*Alternatively, if you don't have access to a computer and printer, or don't want to use the images you find online, you can draw your own. Keep in mind that they should be simple enough to follow with pinpricks, Sharp turns and angles are hard to follow accurately.*

**Also keep in mind that if you're planning to make these and sell them, you need to use original, or non-copyrighted images! Using google and these themes for your own home is fine, but follow copyright laws if you're going to make them commercially.**

Step 8: Creating a "Poker Tool" (Optional, But HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

The first time I tried this, I used a plain needle and a Band-Aid. It was cumbersome, and I ended up with the needle in my finger more than once.

The second time, I used a plain bobby pin, one of those with the big round head. It was a little thicker than the needle, which was good for the cardboard, but it really cramped my hand, and I'm still waiting for feeling to come back to the tip of my finger where it was constantly pressing.

So, this technique is possible without resorting to making a specialized tool, but the tool made the process MUCH more comfortable! Thus, "Optional, but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED."

Take a pencil shaped object and securely tape or glue a needle or pin to the tip of it, with about 1/2 inch of the sharp end hanging off the end of the pencil. Take a few practice stabs at a plain piece of cardboard and hold it up to a bright light to see if you like the hole size, etc.

You can use any "sharp object" for this project, but for best detail on your picture, I'd recommend something the size of a push pin, bobby pin, or needle.

Step 9: Set Up the Design on the Lampshade

Once your lampshade sections have dried, your design has been printed/drawn and your "poker tool" made, you're ready to start the fun part!

Cut apart the designs you made, leaving about 1/4 of an inch around each. You need to be able to see how you're laying the design on the lampshade section without the extra paper obscuring your view. Lay one cardboard section on your foam mat with the outside facing you (black paint is facing up, tinfoil is facing down). Arrange one of your designs on it, remembering to keep your 1" margin. Gently tape the design to the cardboard in at least 2 places. Make sure not to use super sticky tape here, or it'll rip the cardboard when you try to pull it back off! You can press the tape onto your clothing and pull it off several times to make is less sticky.

Step 10: Transfer the Design to the Lampshade

Take your "poker tool" and push it through your printed design, all the way through your cardboard and into the foam mat. You can follow the outline of the design, or fill in the design. I'd recommend filling in letters, unless they're very bold.

Space your "pokes" far enough apart that they don't tear the cardboard; each hole should be an individual hole. They also need to be close enough together to clearly define your design. Especially for the first few pokes, turn the cardboard over to check the back and make sure the cardboard is not ripping. Adjust the distances of your pokes based on what you see, and adjust accordingly.

Also, you can often hold the design up to the light to see the effect and your process! Hold it so your design faces you, and the other side is facing a bright, direct light.

Step 11: Add a "Background" Around Your Design

Once you've completed outlining your design, gently peal away the paper. Hold it up to the light and admire it as you decide how you want to add a "background" to allow more light through. In this example, I added a background by continuing the outline, spreading the dots further from each other every time.

In another example, I filled in my design, and then poked random, relatively evenly spaced holes throughout the entire background.

In another, I clustered holes very close around the design, and gently faded them out as I moved away from the design.

See each of these examples in Step 12.

Step 12: Transfer Designs Onto All Lampshade Sections

Repeat Steps 9-12 for each of your designs, adding a background to let in more light as you desire.

Hold them up to a direct light often to see how they'll look when in the finished lampshade.

Step 13: Assemble the New Lampshade

Get your lamp rings and clean off any residue from the old lampshade (plastic, excessive glue, etc.).

Lay out the cardboard lampshade sections in the order your want them on the lamp. With edges slightly overlapping, hot glue them together. You can also use a strong tape here and tape the seams.

The joined cardboard lampshade pieces should look like the original lampshade did when all stretched out.

Step 14: Attach the New Lampshade to the Lamp Rings

Attaching the bottom ring to the new lampshade was a little tricky, as hot glue and metal don't always do well together. The pictures demonstrate the process much better than I can describe it.

You may have to beat the cardboard into submission by wrapping a piece of tape around the corner and securing it to the lampshade and ring. You can use tape on around the entire lamp ring if you don't have hot glue, or the hot glue isn't cooperating with you.

Bend the cardboard around the lamp ring very slowly, so you don't crease the cardboard.

Step 15: Add the Top Lamp Ring

Use hot glue and tape, or just tape, to add the top lamp ring. The new lampshade is now formed! If you don't have gaps or wayward seams, and like how it looks as is, you can stop here. If you want to add "trim", continue to the next steps.

Step 16: Adding Ribbon/Decoration to Cover Seams

Once again, the images do a better job describing this process than I can. You are using the ribbon or colorful tape to cover the rough edges of the seams and make a pretty divider between your designs.

Wrap the ribbon/tape over the lamp rings and glue it down to the inside of the cardboard to help secure the lampshade to the rings. Make sure to glue the edges of the ribbon down securely also.

Step 17: OOPS! Filling a Gap (HOPEFULLY Unnecessary)

So, hindsight is 20/20, and I didn't think to add an extra quarter inch when cutting my cardboard lampshade sections. Now I have this gap that needs to be filled. It's a seam, so it's going to be covered by ribbon, but I wanted to make it sturdier than that, so I cut a piece of cardboard that would fit over the gap and hot glued it on each side, and to the lampshade rings, then covered it with ribbon, as I covered the other seams. You can't even tell it's there now!

*I didn't cover one side with tinfoil, so it does stand out on the inside. To avoid that problem, add tinfoil/whichever paper/paint you used on the inside to one side of the small piece of cardboard before adding it to the gap.*

Step 18: Checkpoint

This is what the lamp currently looks like on the outside and inside. Again, you can stop here or continue adding trim.

Step 19: Adding Ribbon/Decoration to the Top and Bottom of the Lampshade

To finish the lamp, add ribbon or decorative tape to the top and bottom of the lamp. You can add it flush to the edges, or leave an edge of the ribbon overhanging. In this lampshade, I used a narrow ribbon, so left it flush with the edges. In Step 21, I used a wider ribbon on the top and bottom, and folded it over on the top but left it hanging on the bottom.

Step 20: Put the Finished Lampshade on the Lamp, and Turn It On!

The lampshade is assembled, so now you can put it back on the lamp and turn on the bulb. It throws off a wonderful mellow light, and the designs really shine!

Drop a comment if you like this idea, and please share your own design if you make one, I'd love to see it!

Step 21: Bonus--Six Sided Lord of the Rings Lampshade

As I said in the introduction, I wanted to see how the cardboard lampshade compared to the posterboard one. I like each for different reasons!

The cardboard took longer to prepare, but was actually easier to work with, and didn't rip as easily. This was also cheaper, as I didn't have to buy the posterboard and cut awkward sized pieces out of it. I think the design would have "popped" more if I had used a larger gauge needle, making the holes a little larger. I also didn't press my construction paper down well enough over the folds in the cardboard, leading to a few "bubbles" where the light is obscured.

The design shows through brighter on the posterboard version, but there are several points where the paper is slightly torn, and I don't know how those places will hold up over time.

Step 22: Comparing Cardboard and Posterboard Lampshades

For your own judgement/comparison when making this project, here is the cardboard lampshade vs the posterboard lampshade.

Again, drop a comment if you like this idea, and please share your own design if you make one, I'd love to see it! Thanks for reading!

<3 - Cassey

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    9 Discussions

    I wouldn't actually call this project anything close to geeky though! Cause these are amazing! They would look good even in the morning and they would look even better when the cozy night sets in. I bet everyone would enjoy one in their rooms regardless of children or adults.

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    You've got to have some pretty amazing paper-cutting skills to get this lampshade out! I don't think I would be able to create such amazing shadow designs on my own unless I bought it from somewhere or paid someone to do it for me! The overall effect is really nice though! Great to see stuff like this on this site!

    1 reply
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    CasseyShepherddavelamorte

    Reply 2 months ago

    Post pictures if you do! I’d love to see your personalization on this.

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    audreyobscura

    2 months ago

    I'm impressed by your patience and attention to detail! Great job!

    1 reply